amongst books

amongst books

Friday, May 12, 2017

Outsider art, micropresses and money

Creative workers deserve monetary compensation for their work. I agree with this. I run an online literary site/magazine that pays writers thanks to the help of local government. However, I also run a micropress with print and online publications that do not offer financial compensation to our contributors because I do not seek out government grants to pay for their existence. We offer complementary copies for print publication, but that’s it.

The administrative work that goes into applying for financial assistance is huge and it’s not a burden I’m prepared to take on more than I already do. I am always uncertain, when I ask for free contributions from artists whose work I admire or have discovered whether I should not be a publisher at all because I am unwilling to do the work required to ensure that we are all financially compensated.

I am fortunate to be able to work as a volunteer for everything I do. We limit micropress publishing activity to what we can afford, which isn’t a lot. Money received from those who purchase chapbooks goes directly into paper costs and the cost of hosting the online publications. The expense is greater than what is received.  I receive occasional grants for my own work and the occasional honorarium from literary magazines or reading fees. The advance from my poetry book was small and after two years, sales have resulted in payback of the advance.

I respect those who won’t contribute to anything unless they are financially remunerated for it. But my own way of thinking is to support small, outsider presses who don’t receive money either. Money often means accepting conditions. For government grants for example, you have to have steering committees, regular meetings, insurance and final reports, and you have to adhere to very specific rules about such things as Canadian content, to name one example.

I suspect that if everyone insisted that they only contribute to publications able to offer financial compensation, a lot of micropresses and online publications wouldn’t be able to exist. This means that readers and appreciators of art would be exposed only to government-sanctioned art. I don’t see this as a good thing. I see what these micropresses do as being part of a long tradition of outsider art.

The other option, the kickstarter/indigogo campaigns are an alternative, but also require administrative work and focus on things other than the publication of the art and working with the contributors. I think this is a completely valid way of raising money, but I’m unwilling to spend that kind of time. My micropress is a two-person operation and that’s the way it has to stay in order to do what we do without complicated board meetings and consensus building exercises.

So I will continue to ask you to contribute for free and if you don’t want to, I will understand if you respectfully decline.  I will continue to share remunerative opportunities on social media to help you find ways to share your work and be financially compensated. I won't criticize outsider art and micropresses for not asking for money. I'd be a hypocrite.

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